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Di corte in corte (From court to court) - Humanism in Music
Anonima Frottolisti
rec. 2019, San Vitali, Assisi, Italy
TACTUS TC400007 [76.32]

The Italian group Anonima Frottolisti has compiled a collection of twenty-five songs and dances from Renaissance Italy, Spain and France which they feel reflect the sort of ‘civilisation’ which existed in the courts of the great families like the Medici and the Farnese - an Art which leads us towards an understanding of Renaissance humanism. After all, the innovations of the middle ages were made under the aegis of these powerful clans. The booklet cover is suitably adorned with a beautiful Mantegna painting, ‘The Court of Mantua’, from about 1480.

Music may not have been as innovative as the visual arts but that there are so many thousands of pieces by hundreds of composers in a large number of manuscripts dotted around Europe. So it seems clear that, as Massimiliano Dragoni, one of the performers, tells us in one of the three booklet essays, the civilising affect of music, its healing qualities and ability to uplift the listener, for example, was a clear motivator in the search for a new kind of understanding of the human condition.

The pieces reflect the wide variety of styles found in the courts of the period around 1450-1550 and many of the great names of the time are represented, such as Dufay with an unusual mass movement, Brumel with a Christmas motet and Isaac with a frottola. There are other frottolas, mostly anonymous but also by composers like Marco Cara and the mysterious Giovanni Ambrosio.

The tracks are divided into five sections or, as Dragoni writes, “five pictures”: ‘Court and Power’, ‘Love’, ‘Festivities’, ‘Dance’ and lastly ‘Faith’, each contributing to provide “a snapshot of courtly humanism”.

The group prove themselves versatile, with several of the instrumentalists being also singers. The leading voice, however, is the counter-tenor Luca Piccioni, who also plays the lute and writes a brief essay entitled ‘The Court Lute’. The third essay on the various ‘Collections of Monodic music’ used in the recording, such as the two Chansonniers preserved in Paris of dance pieces and songs, is by Emiliano Finucci who sings and plays the viola da braccio, a six stringed instrument the size of a viola which is held against the shoulder.

The other instruments employed offer an intriguing aural variety, including wind instruments like trombones and a bombard (related to a shawm) as well as percussion. For gentler indoor pieces, they use a harp, flutes and portative organ to accompany the voices. Quite a number of tracks, however, are purely instrumental.

The recording was made in the church of St. Vitali in Assisi, which stands at the top of the town. I went to a concert there in the summer of 2019 and can vouch that it has a wonderful acoustic, clear and vibrant but also extraordinarily intimate. Sadly, no texts either in the original or in translation have been supplied.

Gary Higginson

ANON: Alla battaglia [1.21]
ANON: Viva li galanti, li amorosi tutti quanti [1.37]
Heinrich ISAAC (c.1450-1517) Ne più bella di queste [4.28]
ANON: Zappay-Propiñan del melyor –Chave Chiave [2.15]
ANON: Poi chel ciel la fortuna [3.28]
ANON: Rolet Ara-Maistre Pière-La tricotée [2.37]
Marco CARA (1470-1525) Chi me darà più pace [6.04]
ANON: Tente a l’ora, nizenenta [2.30]
ANDREA DE ANTIQUIS (?) Io son que doloroso [2.38]
Juan del ENCINA (1468-1530) Señora de hermosura [4.34]
ANON: O partita crudele [2.04]
ANON: Rodrigo Martinez [2.56]
Marco CARA: Chi la castra, la porcella [2.42]
ANON: Baco, baco santo Idio [1.35]
Joan Ambrosio DALZA (c.1450-1508) Piva
ANON: Danse de Cleves [1.53]
ANON: Se non dormi, donna [1.52]
Giovanni AMBROSIO (c.1420-1484) Manchesna [2.52]
Domenico da PIACENZA (c.1400-1470) Rostiboli Giocoso [4.59]
Domenico da PIACENZA: Giloxia [2.38]
Guillaume DUFAY (c.1400-1474) Kyrie-Missa Vineux [3.45]
Antoine BRUMEL (c.1460-1512) Noë, Noë [2.39]
Marco CARA: Salve Regina [3.55]
ANON: Ut queant laxis resonare fibris [3.14]
ANON: Adoramus Te, Domine [3:18]

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